Gender

I recently met a young-ish female in-house counsel. She was a Biglaw refugee, married with an eye to starting a family, who had jumped at the chance to go in-house rather than submit to the particular pleasures of the partnership push. We got to talking, and while my instinct told me to go into sell mode, I decided to play things more coolly. A lot of active listening on my part ensued, as I was subjected to various and sundry complaints about life as a female Biglaw associate, followed by a discourse on how much better in-house life was. I kept the conversation light, injecting some shots at Biglaw (these met with laughter and approval), while letting her do most of the talking. I was consciously avoiding acting like a Biglaw partner, or showing any interest in her because of her status as potential client.

Things became interesting when she started discussing her dissatisfaction with her current outside counsel. Various and sundry became a litany, as she complained about the male partner’s inattention to her, the sloppy work of the female associate she was dealing with, and the size of the bills. Most importantly, she complained of feeling unappreciated by the Biglaw firm she was using — and suspected that the lawyers working for her actually hated her. She did not want to feel hated. I can’t blame her — nor would I be shocked if she switched firms in the near future.

We eventually parted ways, but like a good Biglaw partner, I followed up with an email and my contact info. The email differed from what I would send a male in-house counsel after an introductory meeting. My email to the in-house lawyer was much less formal, and was actually jokey — but I wanted to stick with what was apparently working in terms of getting her to open up to me. It worked, as she replied right away with a joke of her own, and warm acknowledgement of how it was good to meet. Looking good — until I decided to experiment with something….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Buying In: Biglaw Lady Issues (Part 3) – Different Treatment?”

Ed. note: This is the second column in a series by Anonymous Partner focusing on the issues facing women in the legal profession. You can read the first column here.

Biglaw partners sell their time and attention to clients who want legal help. Partners devote plenty of thought and attention to the mechanics of selling — the how, the what, and even the why regarding client’s selection of counsel. Biglaw firms rightfully obsess about these issues, spending untold sums on robust marketing departments, consultants, and the like, in the hopes that their partners will magically all become rainmakers (or at least adept “cross-sellers”).

But while the how, what, and why of rainmaking get a lot of attention, there is a glaring lack of attention and discussion of the “who” — as in, who are the people making the decisions to purchase the gold-plated services offered by Biglaw. You would think determining the profiles of your target customers, and targeting sales approaches accordingly, would be an important endeavor for a professional-services outfit. You would also think that Biglaw firms would discuss with their current and future rainmakers strategies for appealing to various types of purchasers of Biglaw services. Neither of the Biglaw firms I have been a partner at have done so — at least when it comes to adopting different approaches to pitching female in-house counsel. I would bet my experience is typical.

What does this have to do with “Biglaw Lady Issues”? Easy. While the statistics tell us that women — in part because of the challenges posed by the timeline I discussed last week, among other factors — are not really moving the needle much in terms of becoming Biglaw equity partners, there is no doubt that they are entering Biglaw in substantial numbers, and leaving to take in-house positions — again in substantial numbers. As Old School Partner reminded us, Biglaw is within a lifetime of being a “men’s only” club. Those days are over, as are the days when someone like Old School Partner could build a firm of men selling to male-run businesses with exclusively-male in-house counsel. But nobody really talks about the impact that the increasing number of female in-house counsel do (and should) have on Biglaw marketing efforts and client retention. Seems crazy that this is the case….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Buying In: Biglaw Lady Issues (Part 2) – Selling to Lady Lawyers”

Ed. note: This is the first column in a series by Anonymous Partner focusing on the issues facing women in the legal profession.

35-22-30. Measurements of an old-school pinup girl, sure. But my point in raising those numbers is a different one. These numbers can actually be used to highlight the special challenges that most women, in particular those who have or want families, face in Biglaw. I think it is still safe to assume that such women are the majority.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the progress of women in Biglaw, as measured by the amount of equity women partners at Biglaw firms and the like. First things first. Biglaw is no longer a man’s club in terms of opportunity. Female associates get hired, and fired, and choose to leave, just like male associates. They get made partner, included on pitches, and in some cases lead their firms. All great — no reason not to tap into the entirety of the human gene pool in order to make more money. Biglaw is a business after all. And there is no dispute that women, at all levels, can contribute to the success of Biglaw — and do.

But in over a decade in Biglaw, I have heard, and seen, horror stories of never-married, very successful professional women, who are desperate to start families, but attract only a parade of gold-diggers, social retards, or other undesirables….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Buying In: Biglaw Lady Issues (Part 1) – The Biglaw Timeline”


Amy Schulman, general counsel of Pfizer

When it comes to the representation of women in the top positions in the legal profession, the news seems somewhat mixed. Things could be better in Biglaw. According to a recent survey, women constitute just 15 percent of equity partners — a number that has stayed roughly the same for the past 20 years.

On the in-house side of the divide, though, the news is better. Women lawyers are ascending to the post of general counsel in record numbers.

Let’s check out the latest findings, courtesy of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA)….

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Who wants to do some document review?

We’re entering on-campus interviewing season. If you’re a law student going through OCI, or if you’re a lawyer involved in your firm’s recruiting process, be sure to check out Above the Law’s new law student career center, a repository job search resources, and our law firm directory, where law firms get letter grades in different categories.

One area that interviewees are always interested in is diversity. Diverse attorneys — okay, that’s a bad way of putting it — minority attorneys want to know where they’ll feel welcome. Even lawyers who aren’t minorities want workplaces that are open and inclusive. And corporate clients are increasingly keen on sending their work to firms that show a commitment to diversity.

So which Biglaw firms are the biggest on diversity? Let’s check out the latest rankings….

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Lately, it seems that all of the regular legal media outlets have turned an eye toward women and their success in the profession. For example, earlier this week, we discussed whether women will ever be able to close the gender gap in Biglaw equity partnership ranks. Now, we’re faced with another “important” question: can older career women sport longer hairstyles?

According to some, such a look isn’t considered age-appropriate for the office. In fact, you could end up looking “rather sad and dated,” which may have an impact on your legal career. But then again, the National Law Journal’s survey on women who make partner didn’t include a question about the length of partnership candidates’ hair. Because at the end of the day, who cares? If a woman is great at her job, then the length of her hair shouldn’t matter.

Why can’t older women be successful and feminine at the same time?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “If You’re Good at Your Job, Your Hairstyle Shouldn’t Matter”

Equity partner! Yay!

Major law firms like to tout their dedication to furthering women’s success in the law, but if you look more closely, you’ll find that many Biglaw firm talk a big game, but have little proof back up their words. Take, for example, the fact that according to a recent survey conducted by the National Law Journal, the percentage of women lawyers in partnership positions has increased only 2.8 percent since 2003. In the meantime, the National Association of Women Lawyers says that the percentage of women in equity partnership positions has been “fixed” at just 15 percent for the past 20 years.

Well, whoop-dee-doo at all of these wonderful statistics that we’ve been choking down for the past decade. Women are apparently supposed to be happy about this kind of painfully slow progress. But what about the firms that have actually honored their commitments to women lawyers?

Let’s take a look at the numbers….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Which Biglaw Firms Actually Make Women Equity Partners?”

* Presidential campaigns for Election 2012 are focusing in on the Supreme Court and future appointments to the high court, and Vice President Joe Biden is really not a fan of Justice Scalia. [POLITICO]

* Dewey know what the ramifications of D&L’s $50M insurance policy will mean for the resolution of the failed firm’s bankruptcy proceedings? Well, Steve Davis is probably happy. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Howrey going to pay off all of our creditors? Probably by dipping into the coffers of the 70 other law firms that took on our defectors. Have fun with all of those subpoenas. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* The percentage of women in Biglaw partnership positions is up 2.8% since 2003, but the equity gender gap remains. At least some progress is being made. [National Law Journal]

* “I thought your papers were terrific, I just disagreed with them.” Kleiner Perkins isn’t a fan of backhanded compliments, so the firm is appealing a judge’s decision to keep Ellen Pao’s case out of arbitration. [Reuters]

* James Holmes, the alleged shooter in the Aurora movie-theater massacre, is scheduled to make his first court appearance today for an initial advisement. Thus far, he’s facing at least 71 charges. [Denver Post]

* The class action suit filed against Cooley Law over its allegedly deceptive employment statistics has been dismissed, much like the NYLS lawsuit before it. More on the dismissal to come later today. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “Sex isn’t going to buy me dinner.” Michael Winner, the attorney accused of offering “pro boner” assistance to female inmates, claims in an interview that the allegations against him are “just plain false.” [WSB-TV Atlanta]

D&L's former partner settlement.

* Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Aurora, Colorado. [CNN]

* Dewey know why the deadline for agreeing to a proposed $103.6M settlement for former D&L partners has been pushed back? It looks like these people are still unhappy with the very thought of parting with their money. [Am Law Daily]

* Four judicial nominees were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee to fill federal district court positions in California, New York, and Pennsylvania. Now it’s time to hurry up and wait for a final vote on the Senate floor. [National Law Journal]

* “This is a garden variety sex harassment case.” That may be true, but when you’re dealing with a high-profile venture capital firm, and the plaintiff is an ex-Biglaw associate, you’re probably going to get some really bad press. [Washington Post]

* Opening statements in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s racial discrimination trial were heard yesterday. Even “America’s Toughest Sheriff” might cower in light of plaintiff representation by Covington & Burling and the ACLU. [CNN]

* Washburn University School of Law is planning to build a new facility for $40M. Unfortunately, the school will never be able to amass the funds needed to kill all the gunners, but we can still dream. [Kansas City Star]

Ed. note: Professor Anna Akbari, a fashion and image consultant, recently provided Above the Law with style tips for Biglaw summer associates. Her advice provoked strong reactions around the web. In this post, she offers additional evidence and analysis to support her views on how professional women can achieve feminine feminism in the workplace.

Successful office dress is not about sex appeal. Overt sexiness — sky-high heels, short, tight skirts, low-cut blouses — is frowned upon, and is not rewarded in more conservative work environments like law firms (Peter Glick has studied this extensively). However, looking too masculine is also not rewarded or favored. It’s about finding a balance between the two, and understanding your audience (and remember, a sexy woman could wear a potato sack and still exude sex appeal, if that’s her intention).

Law firms — and judges, in particular — demand a different style of dress than more creative industries. In professional environments, one is always attempting to strike a balance between dressing to fit into the group, and dressing to express one’s self. It’s not one or the other, and the most successful individuals execute that split with impressive nuance. I like to refer to this balancing act as “rebellious compliance”: demonstrate that you belong, but find a way to distinguish yourself. To dismiss your professional appearance as frivolous or inconsequential is simply naive. Substance and style count.

And it counts even more for women, who are held to higher standards and judged more harshly based on appearance. That is an unfortunate reality….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “In Search of a Feminine Feminism: Why Skirts Are the New Pants”

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